The Reishi mushroom, scientifically known as Ganoderma lingzhi, is nicknamed the mushroom of immortality and goes by many names. For example, they are called simply lingzhi, mushroom of immortality, or ten thousand year mushroom in Asia. In North America, they are called bear bread, varnish shelf, artist's conk. The list is endless, but most people know them as reishi.
There are over 80 species of reishi mushrooms worldwide. All the species grow mostly on dead or decaying hardwood trees and have distinct features that differentiate them. However, they can also be cultivated at home and still offer the same medicinal benefits as those that grow naturally in dead and decaying hardwood trees.
In this article, we discuss all you need to know about reishi mushrooms. Be it the different types we have, how to consume them, what they are good for, dosage, etc. Let's get started;
Types of Reishi Mushrooms
Reishi mushroom is available in several types. Most of these types look-alike to the extent that scientists believe that all the types evolved from a single reishi mushroom after adapting to different habitats and climates. Others, however, believe that they are all distinct species.
Typically, Ganoderma lingzhi is the official species of reishi. It was traditionally used as medicine in China before spreading to other parts of the world. Below are other distinct types of reishi.
This is the species that is widely likened to G. lingzhi. It was also part of traditional Chinese medicine and could often be used interchangeably. However, this type is widely spread worldwide as compared to its counterpart G. lingzhi. You can find it growing in most hardwood trees but preferably oak.
Tsugae is a Japanese name meaning hemlock tree. This type of reishi is found in Australia and northern parts of the United States. While this type of Reishi can be found in birch or maple, you can generally find them growing on hemlock and coniferous plants.
This is one of the most widespread types of reishi. You can find them in Australia, America, and other continents. Identifying them is also easy because of their unique caps and colour. It has a vibrant cap with red in the middle, followed by traces of orange, yellow, and white in the outer region.
These are among the species that grow large; they can grow up to one metre or approximately three feet. Typically, you can find them growing on coniferous trees worldwide, but most are found in the northwest of the United States. They are relatively easy to harvest compared to other types of reishi.
These types of reishi are commonly found in maple, oak, and other hardwood trees. Most reishi mushrooms have rigid caps that cannot be bent easily. But for these types, the caps are relatively soft and bendable.
This is generally the opposite of G. sessile because it is hardy. When compared to other types of reishi, G. applantum looks more brown and dull. When we say hard, it is really hard because you may need a saw to cut it off from a log.
A Queensland species of Ganoderma, also known as Australian Reishi, developed in Tasmania, for commercial cultivation whose fruiting body can be up to 500mm across.
There are so many types of reishi that we cannot mention here. The above mentioned can readily be accessed on many continents.
What does Reishi mushroom look like?
Reishi is the easiest type of mushroom to identify since they have many unique features. They don't have a single colour like most mushrooms do. Reishi has a red colour at the centre of the cap, followed by orange, then yellow and finally white at the edge.
Typically, they grow horizontally from the trunks of hardwood trees. Unlike most mushrooms that have identifiable stems, reishi, on the other hand, don't have. Fortunately, there are no poisonous mushrooms that have similar appearances to reishi. So beginners don't have to worry about getting poisonous mushrooms instead of reishi.
Reishi as Food
Reishi has a bitter taste, but you can still consume it because of its medicinal and nutritional benefits. Triterpenes are the main compounds that offer medicinal benefits. Plants and fungi produce these compounds to help protect them against animals that may eat them.
Everyone has a different view about the reishi taste; some say it is bitter, while others link their taste to that of tree bark. Regardless of all those views, the bottom line is that reishi is bitter. However, you can improve the experience by adding some sweeteners like honey. You can also add it to a smoothie to mask the bitter taste.
Reishi Mushroom Nutrition
Although you can eat any mushroom raw, many people prefer to take them in powdered form because it is more versatile. Whether raw or in powder form, reishi mushrooms do not lose their nutritional value.
Reishi mushrooms are sources of minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants, and proteins despite being plant-based from previous studies. For example, reishi is estimated to have 19.5mg of protein per 100 grams. This is about 16.3% higher than commonly available oyster mushrooms.
The list is long, and reishi tops in most nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and more. If on a vegan diet, reishi is an excellent source of amino acids and B-complex vitamins. Thiamine, folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin are among the common vitamins found in reishi.
Consequently, when dried in the sun, reishi produces significant amounts of vitamin D. That means that the vitamins are absent in raw mushrooms but available in dried or powdered.
Reishi Mushroom Powder
Mushrooms can be consumed in many forms, but mushroom powders are taking the market by storm. Unlike eating raw mushrooms, powders are versatile and stay relatively longer. Mushroom powders are in the market for those who want to avoid the raw taste.
So, for those who want to enjoy beneficial nutrients linked to reishi without the bitter taste, the powder form is here for you. Because the market is flooded with tons of products to choose from, it is better to purchase yours from certified vendors like fancifungi.
How and when to take the reishi mushroom powder depends on several factors. Body mass and general well-being are among the main factors to look for. For example, if you have a large body, you are likely to tolerate higher quantities of reishi powder than people with smaller bodies.
Reishi powder is commonly consumed in hot beverages like coffee and tea. So it is best if you take reishi powder when you are taking any of these beverages, regardless of the time. This raises another question of whether it is best to take reishi before bed. This is discussed in detail below.
Reishi Before bed
Reishi is known to go well with hot beverages, and you may be wondering how to consume it at night. Is it even healthy to consume it before bed? Although not scientifically proven, Japanese and Chinese herbalists traditionally recommended reishi for individuals who have insomnia.
Many people have also reported having a sound sleep after consuming reishi. The sleep-promoting ability is associated with the ability of reishi to relieve stress and depression. Others claim that reishi has sedative effects that help individuals gain sleep quickly.
Reishi Mushroom Tea
Whether you have tasted the unique types of tea worldwide, mushroom tea is incredible, with outstanding benefits that you will want to taste today. Mushroom tea is defined as an infusion made by adding the mushroom powder to hot water.
The powder can also be mixed with other types of tea if you want to make a cocktail. However, for beginners, it is better to dissolve the mushroom powder in hot water. You can later advance and begin mixing with other teas.
Reishi mushroom tea is one of the many types of tea available these days. Almost every mushroom species you know can be made into tea. When looking at history, mushrooms have been used for the longest time as medicine, especially in China.
Mushrooms, especially reishi and other few types, were used to promote mental health, relieve stress and other functions. This was happening even without any pieces of research to support those claims. Today, you can find mushroom powders in tea bags, and you can also find them blended with herbal tea.
As aforementioned, reishi mushroom is bitter and infusing it in hot water does not change that taste. The main idea behind infusing mushroom powder in hot water is not about enjoying the flavour but gaining health benefits.
Reishi Mushroom Matcha
Matcha is made from green tea; that is why most people confuse it with green tea. The greatest difference is in the cultivation process. Matcha is achieved by covering green tea against direct sunlight for about 30 days to improve amino acids chlorophyll levels.
These days, matcha is mixed with mushroom powder to improve the health benefits associated with it. For example, matcha is rich in antioxidants and reishi, on the other hand, also has similar properties. When combined, the results are even greater.
Reishi mushroom matcha is made by mixing reishi powder with matcha. You can find reishi mushroom matcha in supplement stores, and it is essential to purchase from a trusted vendor.
What is Reishi Mushroom Good for?
Reishi mushrooms can be used to offer several health benefits. As aforementioned, reishi is made of molecules like triterpenoids, peptidoglycans, and polysaccharides. These molecules may be responsible for some of the health benefits we are about to discuss below.
While reishi can be eaten raw like other types of mushroom, it is common to find it in powdered form or other extracts. Fortunately, all the forms of reishi have been tested in human studies, animals, and cells and proven to have the above molecules.
Below are health benefits associated with reishi mushrooms that have been scientifically proven. Here we go;
Reishi for Immune System (Boosts)
Reishi has been proven to help boost the immune system. According to what is known so far from test-tube studies, reishi has been seen to alter harmful genes in the white blood cells. These white blood cells form the major part of the immune system, and other studies have found that reishi may help alter inflammation in the pathways of these cells.
The white blood cells are found in a type called natural killer cells. Reishi has also been seen to increase the activities of these cells that fight infections and promote the killing of cancer cells. Another study related to colorectal cancer showed that reishi might help increase the number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) in patients having that condition.
Although many studies show that reishi mushrooms benefit more ill people, there is evidence that it helps healthy people. For example, as much as reishi helps promote the development of lymphocytes, the same study shows that it helps athletes undergo stressful experiences.
Generally, reishi has proven to help promote immune system functions by impacting the white blood cells. However, more research may help determine other benefits.
Reishi Mushroom for Anxiety
Anxiety and depression are leading contributors of disabilities worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Anxiety may be caused by infections or the current situations you are experiencing. On the other hand, depression comes as a result of prolonged stress. Depression can also come as a result of having stress and anxiety combined.
Pharmaceutical drugs can be used to deal with the conditions but may end up having side effects. Supplements like reishi mushrooms have been found to lessen anxiety and depression effectively. In a study investigating the relationship between reishi and fatigue, 48 breast cancer survivors showed a significant decrease in anxiety after taking reishi for four weeks.
Reishi Mushroom for Allergies
Allergies are common disorders that you can find anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, it is not easy to avoid these allergies using pharmaceutical drugs without getting side effects. The best way now lies with natural supplements.
Again, not many supplements can help improve allergic conditions effectively. A good supplement should inhibit the development of allergic reactions without altering normal homeostasis. For decades, reishi has been described for patients with several allergic conditions and proven to work well. It was proved in a study investigating the suppression of allergic and inflammatory responses by Ganoderma lucidum.
Does Reishi have Anti-Cancer Properties?
It has been proven that most people consume reishi because of its anti-cancer properties. A study conducted with over 4,000 breast cancer survivors showed that more than 59% consumed reishi mushrooms. Also, as already mentioned, test-tube studies found that reishi can kill cancer cells.
Some research was also conducted on the impact reishi may have on prostate cancer. It was found out that reishi may reverse prostate cancer, but more detailed research is needed. Generally, multiple studies show that reishi benefits cancer patients by improving the quality of their lives.
Can Reishi Fight Fatigue (Improve Energy)?
Chronic fatigue may be defined as a condition where the body fails to relieve tiredness even after getting enough rest. There is no exact cause of these conditions, but experts claim that they may be triggered by infections, hormonal imbalance, stress, immune system problems, and other causes.
Reishi has the potential to improve energy and reduce the severity of fatigue. This mushroom helps fight free radical damage by boosting the immune system. Reishi can also regulate testosterone levels in the body which in turn helps promote good energy levels.
This was proved in a study carried out among 132 individuals with neurasthenia. This is a medical condition associated with pain, dizziness, aches, irritability, and headaches. According to the research, Reishi was found to reduce fatigue and improve general well-being after four weeks.
Another study was also conducted among 48 breast cancer survivors, and it was also confirmed that there was a significant improvement within four weeks. While reishi is promising many benefits for healthy individuals and those with conditions, more research is needed on those benefits.
Does Reishi Promote Heart Health?
Reishi mushrooms have some influence metabolic markers, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), total cholesterol (TC), blood pressure, and oxidative damage. G. lucidum potentially reduces the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases.
More research is needed to confirm these claims regardless of how many pieces of research support the findings. This is because other research failed to support the findings saying they were not significant.
Can Reishi Help Control Blood Sugar?
Some studies show that there are molecules in reishi mushrooms that help decrease blood sugar in animals. Other preliminary pieces of research also showed similar results. However, more research is needed to confirm the results.
As much as they help control blood sugar levels, they should not be used alongside diabetes medication. Taking them with diabetes medication may cause your blood sugar to get too low than the standard.
Does Reishi Have Antioxidant Properties?
Antioxidants are defined as molecules that help prevent cells from damage. Because of that function, foods and supplements with antioxidant properties are sought after. Research shows that reishi mushrooms have antioxidant properties, and many people have reported benefiting from that.
Preliminary pieces of research showed significant in some antioxidant activity. However, more research is underway to determine which enzymes are supported by reishi mushrooms.
Be Aware of Reishi Mushroom Lookalikes
There are not many mushrooms that look like reishi. However, you have to be careful with red belted conk. It grows out horizontally from hardwood tree trunks, just like reishi do. One difference is the colour; red belted conk only has two colours, while reishi has up to four colours.
The Red belted conk has red colour at the centre and white at the edge. You can also differentiate between the two by scratching the underside. Reishi mushrooms are easily bruised when scratched as compared to red belted conk. But why struggle while you can get ready reishi powder online from a trusted vendor.
Despite the bitter taste of reishi, it is one of the most sought-after because of its medicinal benefits. Reishi mushrooms show positive results for diabetes individuals, high blood pressure, cancer, and other medical conditions, but more research needs to be done.
Reishi mushrooms can be found worldwide growing on dying or dead trees. They have a distinctive reddish appearance but may also have shades of white, yellow, and orange.
These mushrooms can be purchased as tinctures, extract, or powder, but be sure to get your batch from a reputable seller. Because the mushroom market is flooded with many products, it may not be easy to make the right choice.
If you are interested in the health benefits associated with mushrooms, reishi is a variety you have to consider.